KIMBERLEY, South Africa (Reuters) – The first South African project to bring illegal miners into the formal fold has been plagued by violence in diamond capital Kimberley, dealing a major blow to national efforts to stem a booming illicit trade.
The project was launched 18 months ago in Kimberley, the site of a 19th-century diamond rush that lured fortune-seekers from the world over. Mine owners granted more than 800 unlicensed, or informal, small-scale miners the right to legally mine around 1,500 acres of diamond-rich waste fields.
The aim of the government-backed scheme was to curb illegal mining and black-market trade of diamonds, and serve as a blueprint for future attempts elsewhere in the country, not only in the diamond sector, but also potentially manganese, gold and chrome.
However the project has been hit by violence, with informal miners not included in the scheme attacking infrastructure and even members of the newly licensed cooperative, according to mine owner Ekapa Minerals which is running the initiative.
The failure thus far of this pilot scheme is a blow to wider corporate and governmental efforts to bring South Africa’s estimated tens of thousands of informal miners, or “zama-zamas”, into the mainstream, to boost productivity and curb crime.